Custody Awarded to Dead Jogger's Family

Custody of the two young children of murdered North Carolina jogger Nancy Cooper was turned over to the mother's family under a settlement reached today in Raleigh, N.C.

Brad and Nancy Cooper's two daughters, Bella, 4, and Katie, 2, will live with their mother's parents, Garry and Donna Rentz, and her sister, Krista Lister, in Alberta, Canada, until another custody hearing on Oct. 13.

Rentz' and Brad Cooper's lawyers reached a custody settlement before appearing in court for a hearing that was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. today. At approximately 3:15 p.m., lawyers from both parties announced to a packed courtroom that a settlement had been reached.

Under the agreement, Cooper will be allowed two weekends of visitation with his daughters, during which he will be able to have the girls for four hours per day. A member of Nancy's family will be present throughout these visits, said Wake County District Court Judge Debra Sasser.

Cooper will also be allowed four phone calls or Web cam chats with his daughters per week, but each call may not exceed 15 minutes – giving the father a total of one hour of phone time per week with his kids.

Both parties are also prohibited from disparaging each other or talking to the press in the upcoming 75 days until the next custody hearing takes place. The daughters are also not to be exposed to the media, according to the settlement.

Alice Stubbs, a lawyer representing Nancy Cooper's family, spoke briefly to reporters upon exiting the courtroom.

"We're just grateful to have a settlement," said Stubbs.

The agreement comes on the heels of an already bitter custody dispute stemming from the murder of Cooper, who was found dead near her upscale home on July 14. Since their mother went missing, Bella and Katie were being cared for by the Rentzes after they filed an emergency custody petition.

Since then, authorities have not named a suspect or person of interest in the homicide, and have not disclosed the cause of death.

Cooper, 34, was last seen by her husband at 7 a.m. Saturday morning before going for a jog, police said, and was also spotted by friends the night before at a neighborhood dinner party.

But when a friend who had planned to meet Cooper later on Saturday became concerned when the stay-at-home mother of two failed to show up, she alerted police.

And while family and friends of Cooper's wife have been pointing fingers at Cooper's husband since her disappearance, police have not named him as a suspect or person of interest in the homicide and have stressed his continuing cooperation with the investigation.

In an affidavit filed Wednesday, Cooper addressed allegations that his failing marriage may have involved him in his wife's homicide.

"Three years ago, I made a mistake while married to Nancy," Brad Cooper said in an affidavit filed Wednesday in Cary, N.C., and obtained by

"I had a single indiscretion and slept with another woman one time," said Cooper. "I deeply regretted [and still regret] that it happened."

Cooper also alleges in the affidavit that his wife admitted to having an extramarital affair around the same time that he says he revealed his own indiscretions.

"Nancy admitted that she also had an extramarital relationship while married to me, four years ago," Cooper said in the document. "Nancy insisted that she did nothing wrong, that her relationship with the other man only happened once, it wasn't sexual and that no one even knew his name."

The Coopers were attending marriage counseling, according to the affidavit, but in April 2008 Cooper's wife prepared a separation agreement. At the time of her murder, Cooper had not yet signed the agreement.